Benchmarks for Science Literacy: Chapter 15 THE RESEARCH BASE



When asked to describe their views about science in general, high-school students portray scientists as brilliant, dedicated, and essential to the world. However, when asked about science as a career, they respond with a negative image of scientific work and scientists. They see scientific work as dull and rarely rewarding, and scientists as bearded, balding, working alone in the laboratory, isolated and lonely (Mead & Metraux, 1957). This image of scientists has also been frequently documented among elementary- and middle-school students (Fort & Varney, 1989; Newton & Newton, 1992). Some research suggests that this image may represent students' knowledge of the public stereotype rather than their personal views and knowledge of science and scientists (Boylan, Hill, Wallace, & Wheeler, 1992).

Some students of all ages believe science mainly invents things or solves practical problems rather than exploring and understanding the world. Some high-school students believe that moral values and personal motives do not influence a scientist's contributions to the public debate about science and technology and that scientists are more capable than others to decide those issues (Aikenhead, 1987; Fleming 1986a, 1986b, 1987).